SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (CMC):
The United States Coast Guard seized 2,546 pounds of cocaine, a go-fast vessel, and detained three suspected smugglers during an interdiction in the Caribbean Sea.
The Coast Guard said on Wednesday that the interdiction took place south of St Croix, US Virgin Islands.
It said the drug shipment has an estimated wholesale value of more than US$34 million, adding that the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force is leading a criminal investigation into the case.
The interdiction was a result of a multi-agency law enforcement effort in support of its Operation Unified Resolve, the Caribbean Border Interagency Group's Operation Caribbean Guard, and the United States (US) Department of Justice Caribbean Corridor Strike Force.
"Interdicting drug smugglers at sea in the middle of the night is a complex and dangerous operation only possible through the resolve of federal and regional law enforcement authorities committed to safeguarding Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands from the threats that come from the sea," said Capt Drew W. Pearson, commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan.
"These arrests and multi-kilogram seizure are a clear indication of the success of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force Initiative," said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, US Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.
The Coast Guard said the crew of a patrolling fixed-wing HC-144 Ocean Sentry maritime patrol aircraft from Air Station Miami detected a suspicious 30-foot go-fast vessel late last Thursday night.
It said the vessel was spotted carrying three suspected smugglers and what appeared to be multiple bales of suspected contraband.
"The Coast Guard Cutter Drummond arrived on scene shortly thereafter and embarked the detainees and suspected contraband for transport to Puerto Rico," the Coast Guard continued. "A test revealed the suspected contraband to be cocaine."
Since September 2012, the Coast Guard has seized 27,650 kilograms of cocaine, in partnership with regional law enforcement authorities in the Caribbean.